Clothing Purchase Decisions and Social Participation: An Empirical Investigation of U.S. and U.K. Rehabilitation Clients

Article excerpt

Survey findings on clothing decision making and social participation of U.S. and U.K. rehabilitation clients and the role of clothing in the rehabilitation process of persons with disabilities are discussed. Eight clothing purchase decision variables (CPDV) were rated and ranked according to their importance. Tukey's multiple comparison results confirmed a complex clothing purchase decision-making process for both U.S. and U.K. clients, while ANOVA results indicated a cultural influence on CPDV. Pearson correlation coefficients suggested some empirical relationships between 7 CPDV and the level of participation in 10 social activities. Policy implications of these findings and the role of clothing in the rehabilitation process are presented.

Clothing and socialization represent unique and important factors in the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. The goal of rehabilitation is to maximize a client's potential by restoring persons with disabilities to the highest physical, emotional, social, and economic level (Bricker, 1958), and clothing can play an important part in this process. It can enable persons with disabilities to be more successful in their rehabilitation by helping establish a positive self-image (Newton, 1976), and facilitating communication during social interaction (Roach-Higgins & Eicher, 1992).

The role of clothing in the socialization of persons with disabilities needs to be emphasized because clothing can help in the socialization phase of their rehabilitation (Yep & Yep, 1976) and leisure activities, which are social in nature, can be used to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities (Beck-Ford & Fox-Smith, 1986). The philosophy of normalization (Wolfensberger, 1972), suggests that persons with disabilities be integrated physically and socially with their peers who are not disabled (Schleien & Ray, 1988). Since appearance is what is presented to others in social situations (Lamb, 1991), normative dress may enhance social participation (Kaiser, Freeman, & Wingate 1985). Appropriate appearance can lead to a positive self-image and greater integration into society during work and social activities (Guthrie, 1992). For many persons with disabilities, participation in leisure pursuits may produce a higher performance level in a variety of activities leading to a more positive self-concept, a gain in social skills, and acceptance by other members of society (Bender, Brannan, & Verhoven, 1984). The physical and functional aspects of integration, however, may be achieved more readily than social integration as suggested by a study of deinstitutionalization in Sweden (Pedlar, 1990).

A great deal has been written on the effects of physical attractiveness, i.e., the body, on person perception and social interaction (Berscheid & Walster, 1974; Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986). Positive responses are generated if a person is perceived to be physically attractive, while negative responses are generated if a person is perceived as physically unattractive. Bardock and McAndrew (1985) found that physically attractive and appropriately dressed individuals were more likely to be hired than unattractive and inappropriately dressed individuals, while Lennon (1990) found that individuals who were attractively dressed were judged to be more competent, sociable, and more desirable to work with than those who were unattractively dressed. Appropriate dress was found to affect the decision to hire a person with a physical disability (Ray, 1986). This suggests that clothing selection and coordination may be variables that can be controlled and used as self-determination tools to elicit positive responses in work and social situations for individuals with a disability.

Early contributions in the area of clothing for people with disabilities in the United States (U.S.) were made by occupational and physical therapists (Hallenbeck, 1966) in their analyses of the functional aspects of dress. …

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